Studying Psychology to First Remote Employee to a Remote PM

1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?

Hi! I’m Irma. I’ve been working remotely from Indianapolis, Indiana (IN), for roughly 3 years, both as a Project Manager and a Product Manager. I’m originally from Miami, Florida (FL) where I went to school to study Psychology and that’s also where I got my start with web development. 

While I was studying Psychology I had this huge passion for technology but my understanding of computers and programming was zero. Having never been exposed to Computer Science as a young teenager, I followed Psychology as a major. Right before graduating college I stumbled upon Codecademy and fell completely in love with the power of coding. And from then on it sort of all fell into place 😊.

I stopped pursuing Occupational Therapy after graduation and spent hours building side projects to land my first web internship. And here we are today! I’m a Product Manager delivering really high-quality curricula to K-12 schools, designing and working with an amazing all-remote team.

2. What motivated you to choose remote working?

At the time, my motivation was getting out of Miami, FL. I know, you’re probably asking, ‘Why would she ever want to leave Miami?!?”.

But after living there for practically my whole life I needed a change. I wanted to experience a new environment, new people, less traffic and start a new chapter. That was my big push to go remote.

In addition, I wanted to have the flexibility of working from any location I wanted, which was a huge win for me as I considered remote work.

I created this really neat pitch deck (I wish I had it now) for my bosses at the time. By researching remote work, I found that it seemed like it’d be a good fit for me. So, I used that to my advantage on top of showing my bosses all the benefits of working remotely and drafting a lite Remote Plan trial for the company. 

My bosses were totally supportive and let me go off to work remotely from Indianapolis, IN, for their company in Miami, FL.

3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?

Oh, they were challenging. Hard. 

And I expected it. There was no way I was going to transition from working in an office to then being the only remote core team member and it being a piece of cake.

So, I really had to put in long hours to make sure my communication was at par, that I was being included in meetings, and checking-in periodically with my bosses and fellow managers to get a pulse on productivity and the movement of work since I had gone all-remote.

It was also really hard for me to get used to not being able to get up and ask my co-worker a question in real-time. It was uncomfortable not having that anymore but I got used to it. I had really great and supportive co-workers who would check-in often and over-communicate and that really made all the difference in getting over that initial shock of not having them 2 feet away from me.

4. How did you find remote working roles?

My first remote role was when I transitioned from being an in-office employee to a remote employee all under the same company. Since this was an internal move, I didn’t go through searching and applying to remote roles.

But for my current role as a Product Manager, I did find using the following sites/blog:

5. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?

The best parts have been flexibility in scheduling, ability to work from Miami – where my family is – multiple times a year, and not having to default to taking PTO, growth in my ability to be autonomous and more productive but not have in-office distractions. 

The good, hmmm, I’d say the good parts have been related to education. I’ve been able to learn so much about what it takes to be a really productive remote employee and having gone through the process, I have a great handle on it and can share with others looking to break into remote work.

Isolation and the non-closeness you feel towards co-workers being so far and distributed from each other. I try and solve isolation by getting out of the house, which has worked pretty well for me so far but I definitely miss in the in-office, whiteboard collaboration.

6. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?

Notion for meeting notes. Always have an agenda and notes during meetings!

Slack is a big driver for communication, especially live conversation, so I live by this.

GDrive/ Dropbox provides teams to work asynchronously and showcases a single source of truth for all teams. 

Pomodoro/ Google Calendar – I use both to block productivity hours and without them, I’d be all in the weeds of my work. Both help my schedule and keep me on track for hours of pure focus as well as reminders to get up and walk around.

Loom for all my screenshots, video walkthroughs, etc.! 

Zoom is my go-to video tool. I use this daily for dev meetings, user research sessions, and internal check-in meetings.

7. Your most exciting/ hilarious experience since you started working remotely.

A hilarious experience was recent! We were having our dev meeting with one of our devs who was leaving the company and we all decided to send him off by having a Sprint Planning Hat Party.

We all wore hats from funky to floral and it was really funny seeing everyone in their hat choices. We had one of our devs wear his new baby girl as a hat 😅. So, that was probably the highlight!

8. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?

Learn if it’s right for you first. I think we can easily get caught up with all the positives about remote work but I’ve talked to many many people who have tried it and it’s not for them – and that’s okay.

I always tell folks to try working on a project with maybe a few of your friends or colleagues who are in different timezones. Experience the coordination between timezones, communication styles, working async/sync, checking-in, being empathetic, getting used to being alone, etc. 

9. How do you see your career shaping up and your goals?

I’m definitely honing in on my craft when it comes to being a great Product Manager right now. I see the next few years being used to keep working on learning about products, discovery, user research and improving how I use and track metrics for customers. I’m also dedicating a lot of my free time to RemoteNewbie and other side projects and I’d love for these resources to help other new and upcoming remote workers and remote teams really work at their best.

Goal wise: I take goals lightly. I have a big vision of where I want to be but I know that things can change, my passions can change and all that, so I’m keeping an open mind. Who knows I’ll either be an executive PM at some point or become an entrepreneur. 

I’m going to keep working hard and helping as many people as I can by providing value and we’ll see where that takes me 🤗.

10. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?

I love this question! I think it’s evolving right in front of us, right this second. In the future, I see remote work becoming the new norm for every role. I’d love to see every role in tech have both an in-office and a remote work option that is up to the discretion of the employee. 

I also foresee lots of remote work solutions and future of work solutions popping up – I’m working on one now, stay tuned!

11. Where can we follow you on?

Personal portfolio/blog

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